What You Need To Know Before Trying Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga, also referred to as hot yoga, is a 90-minute class where participants do 26 poses in 104 or 105 degree studios. Hot workout classes are associated with increased flexibility, detoxification, higher weight loss rates, and more calories burned. While you are guaranteed to sweat more, is it worth the heat and physical discomfort? Are these benefits actually true? Here's what you need to know before you sign up.

It's not for everyone

Not everyone should do hot workout classes. "Individuals who do not respond well to working out in hot conditions or individuals with underlying heart issues should be careful. It's important to acclimate slowly and to always stay hydrated. Understand your own limitations," Marni Sumbal M.S., R.D, told Shape. So if this is you, stick to a regular yoga class and reap similar health benefits. No need to put your health at risk in any way.

You might feel sick

Due to the intense heat and length of the sessions, it can put a strain on your body. To protect yourself, experts Dr. Brian L. Tracy, an exercise scientist at Colorado State University and Dr. Kim Allan Williams, former president of the American College of Cardiology, explained to Time that hot yoga enthusiasts need to pay close attention to their bodies. Feelings of light-headedness, nausea, confusion, or muscle cramping—either during or after a yoga practice—are all signs that you need to take a break. That's especially true for inexperienced yogis, whose bodies aren't acclimated to the rigors of hot yoga. Listen to your body and go easy on yourself the first few times.

The heated room is meant to mimic the heat of India

This is a fun fact! Bikram calls these studios "Torture Chambers." Sound enticing? The studios are designed in such a way that participants get the proper heating to help practice postures optimally. It can get very intense. Much like traveling to a country with a vastly different climate, it can take your body time to adjust to the Bikram conditions as well.

Remember to stay hydrated!!!

Dr. Kim Allan Williams, former president of the American College of Cardiology, told Time, "You can't sweat out a bunch of minerals and then replace them with water alone," he says. Dangerously low levels of potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes contribute to those scary health risks mentioned above. So in addition to drinking a lot of water to rehydrate, also add some Gatorade, Smartwater or other vitamin, mineral and electrolyte infused drinks.

There are several mental benefits

Yoga has been known in the fitness world as having many psychological and emotional benefits. Due to its mindfulness and meditative qualities, it can help with pain and stress management. Hot yoga classes can add an extra element of psychological toughness. Yogi Loren Bassett of Pure Yoga in NYC, told Shape, "Aside from the physical benefits, the mental connection you develop to your body during a heated class is also different from non-heated classes. The discipline, the pushing through when you are uncomfortable, and finding comfort in discomfort—if you can overcome that, then you can translate that to your life off the mat. When the body gets stronger, the mind goes along for the ride."

It systematically works every part of the body

Bikram Yoga is very specific. It includes 26 postures done in a sequence over 90 minutes. According to BikramYoga.com, "Bikram Yoga's twenty-six posture exercises systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fiber, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as nature intended. Proper weight, muscle tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well being will automatically follow. Bikram's beginning yoga class is a twenty-six asana series designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched." Names of postures include, Awkward Pose, Balancing Stick, Half Tortoise and Dead Body Pose.

It might stink... a lot

Every studio has a soft carpet, rather than hardwood floors. It is designed this way because it is more forgiving to joints than hard floors. Due to the extremely hot temperature of the room, many people sweat a lot. So the room might have a sweaty, body odor smell when you come in. But rest assured, according to Shape, Maria McBride, owner and founder of Bikram Yoga Natick in Massachusetts says, "These days many studios have an anti-bacterial carpet that gets cleaned regularly. So if it stinks when you walk in that's good! It's not dirt, but just sweat, which is what we want." It sounds less than ideal, but this isn't a workout for the faint of heart.

Getting there early is key

You want to give yourself enough time to be mentally and physically prepared for the grueling workout ahead. Also, coming to yoga classes once they have started make it harder to gain all the benefits an can be distracting for other students. For Bikram Yoga, you want to give yourself enough time to get dressed, or take off a layer or two and allow your body to acclimate to its new environment. Bikram Yoga teacher Michelle "Mochi" Camaya, advises in Shape,"Try to get there at least 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to sign up, get dressed, settle down on your mat, and acclimate to the heat." She also recommends introducing yourself to your teacher and letting them know if you have any injuries.

The verdict

So is Bikram Yoga right for you? If you have no underlying health conditions that may be dangerous and the heat doesn't make you want to puke or faint, then go for it! This is a pretty extreme workout and may not appeal to everyone. If this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you can get great benefits from doing yoga and mediation at room temperature as well.